Baseball Travels to Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. -- Fresh off a thrilling 3-2 win over No. 28 Louisville on Tuesday, the Kentucky baseball teams returns to Southeastern Conference play, traveling to face Ole Miss in a three-game weekend series, beginning on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Swayze Field. The series will resume at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and conclude on 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The series will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (17-17, 2-10 SEC) enters the series having lost nine consecutive conference games, the longest streak since the 2005 campaign. The Wildcats are riding a nine-game non-conference winning streak after the midweek win over Louisville. UK has fallen in consecutive sweeps at the hands of No. 24 Alabama, No. 3 South Carolina and Auburn, posting a series win over Tennessee on SEC opening weekend.
UK will turn to its weekend rotation for the past two weeks, starting junior right-hander Alex Meyer (3-4, 3.74 ERA) on Friday vs. Ole Miss ace southpaw Matt Crouse (6-2, 2.93 ERA). On Saturday, UK will turn to freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (4-2, 5.56 ERA) to face off with Rebels flame-throwing righty David Goforth (1-5, 3.86 ERA). In the finale, UK will start sophomore left-hander Taylor Rogers (2-4, 4.91 ERA) opposite Ole Miss righty Austin Wright (4-3, 4.03 ERA).
On Tuesday, UK posted a 3-2 win over the Cardinals, using a strong pitching performance from Jordan Cooper and ninth-inning heroics from Chad Wright and Taylor Black. Wright and Black each collected three hits, with Wright reaching on a one-out double in the top of the ninth and Black roping the game-winning RBI single into rightfield off UL closer Tony Zych to give UK the 3-2 lead. Cooper got the game started on the mound with 6.2 innings, allowing only one earned run. UK used senior Mike Kaczmarek in relief of Cooper, before turning it over to freshman Trevor Gott, who picked up the win.
A 6-foot-9, 220-pound native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer has made eight weekend starts for UK this season, pacing UK in innings pitched (55.1) and strikeouts (64). With 64 strikeouts, Meyer ranks second in the SEC. The preseason All-SEC selection by Baseball America, Meyer has hurled two complete games and owns a pair of 13-stirkeout performances in 2011. In his last start on Friday vs. Auburn, Meyer went six innings, allowing a career-high 11 hits, with six runs, three walks and two strikeouts. Meyer left the game after six complete innings, with the game tied at 6-6. In his three-year career, Meyer owns 207 career strikeouts, good for the eighth-best total in program history. Crouse has been the ace of the Ole Miss staff in 2011, tossing eight games and a team-high 55.1 innings, walking only seven with 41 strikeouts. Crouse has hurled two complete games, pacing the team with six wins.
Littrell, a native of Louisville, Ky., will be making his third career SEC start after opening his career as a highly effective midweek starter. A 6-3, 190-pound freshman, Littrell has pitched in 10 games with seven starts, tossing 43.2 innings, allowing 49 hits and 14 walks, striking out 33. The 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year out of Trinity High School, Littrell has been great in a starting role this year, posting a team-high five quality starts and owning a 4-1 record and a 4.02 ERA in his seven starts. Littrell made his second career SEC start last Saturday vs. Auburn, going 6.1 innings, allowing a career-high 11 hits and seven runs, not issuing a walk and striking out five. Littrell allowed two Auburn runs in the first inning before settling in and allowing just one run over the next four frames. In the sixth, the Tigers plated four runs for the difference to hand Littrell the loss. Goforth has made eight starts this year, tossing 49 innings with 49 hits and 19 walks allowed, striking out 34.
On Sunday, Rogers will get the start, his ninth start of the year. A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers has been a member of the UK weekend rotation since stepping on campus as a freshman in 2010. In eight starts in 2011, Rogers has tossed a team-high tying five quality starts, hurling 47.2 innings, allowing only seven walks and striking out 36. In his last start on Sunday vs. Auburn, Rogers went 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs, not issuing a walk and striking out four. The 6-3, 170-pounder carried a tie 2-2 game into the seventh inning, with the UK bullpen allowing his two inherited runners to score and saddle him with the loss. Wright has made eight starts for the Rebels in 2011, tossing 44.2 innings with a team-high 45 strikeouts, walking 13.
The Wildcats have been led offensively by Wright, who has hit .336 with nine doubles, four homers and 24 RBI, stealing a team-best 13 bases and drawing a club-high 19 walks. Black has hit .333 with 10 doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Braden Kapteyn has batted .331 with four homers and 33 RBI, while freshman J.T. Riddle has hit .320 with six doubles, three homers and 19 RBI. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy has hit .313 with a club-high 12 doubles, four homers and 20 RBI, swiping seven bases. Centerfielder Brian Adams has hit .289 with eight doubles, one homer and 11 RBI, stealing eight bags. Catcher Luke Maile has hit .272 with four homers and 22 RBI.
In the bullpen, UK has been led by Gott (2-3, 0.40 ERA), who has posted one save in 15 relief outings, striking out 28 in 22.1 innings. Lefty Alex Phillips (1-1, 3.00 ERA) has totaled a team-high 16 relief appearances, striking out 17 in 18 innings with only one walk. Kaczmarek (0-0, 7.15 ERA) owns a team-high four saves, while Kapteyn (0-1, 5.54 ERA) has totaled two saves and 22 strikeouts in 13 innings. Walter Wijsa (3-0, 1.96 ERA) has struck out 20 in 23 innings and senior Nick Kennedy (0-1, 3.48 ERA) has made 13 relief outings.
Ole Miss (20-14, 5-7 SEC) is coming off a pair of series defeats at the hands of No. 17 LSU and red-hot Georgia. The Rebels posted a 12-7 win over UGA in the series finale and suffered an 8-6 loss in 12 innings at No. 20 Southern Miss on Tuesday. The Rebels have lost five of their last six games and eight of its last 11 contests. The Rebels have hit .286 as a team with 23 homers and 34 stolen bases through 34 games, fielding .971 as a club. On the mound, Ole Miss owns a 3.46 team ERA with nine saves in 306.2 innings, walking 112 and striking out 259.
The Rebels have been led offensively by outfielder Tanner Mathis, who has hit .348 with seven doubles and 25 RBI. Catcher Taylor Hightower has hit .375 in 15 games, while Alex Yarbrough has hit .341 with 10 doubles, three triples, three homers and 23 RBI. Slugger Matt Smith has belted six homers and driven in 20 RBI, while Tracy has hit .286 with two homers and 18 RBI. Catcher Miles Hamblin has hit .263 with two homers and 13 RBI, while slugger Matt Snyder has hit .248 with two homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBI.
In the bullpen, Ole Miss has been paced by closer Jake Morgan (2-0, 0.00 ERA), who has totaled five saves in eight relief outings, striking out 13 in 18.2 innings. Mike Mayers (1-0, 4.57 ERA) and Brett Huber (1-0, 3.12 ERA) have appeared in a team-high 13 games, with Huber posting three saves in 17.1 innings, walking 14 with 14 strikeouts. Eric Callender (0-0, 1.69 ERA) owns a save in 21.1 innings, walking six and striking out 17.
Ole Miss leads the overall series with UK, 38-28, including a 22-8 mark in games played in Oxford. The Rebels have won two consecutive series meetings with UK, including posting a series win in the SEC opening weekend in Lexington in 2010. Last time UK traveled to Oxford, the Wildcats fell in all three games. After UK ran off a stretch of wins in seven wins in the last eight meetings from 2006-08, the Wildcats have lost seven of the last eight meetings with the Rebels.
The last time the two teams met, UK suffered losses in the first two games, before rebounding to win the finale in Lexington. In the Friday game, eventual first-round pick Drew Pomeranz tossed six shutout innings vs. UK, allowing only one hit and striking out nine in a 9-0 win. UK pitched Logan Darnell, Cooper and Sam Kidd in the contest vs. Ole Miss, with Kidd going 2.1 shutout innings, allowing only one hit and striking out two. In the second game, Ole Miss jumped out to a 3-0 lead with three runs in the first off Rogers, before he settled in to throw six consecutive scoreless innings with the Ole Miss leading 3-2 entering the eighth inning. The Rebels struck for four runs in the inning off Kapteyn and Kennedy and Huber locked in the in with a shutout ninth inning. UK got two hits in the game out of Wright and Gunner Glad, with Lance Ray launching a homer. Ole Miss starter Aaron Barrett was great, going seven innings and allowing only one earned run with seven strikeouts. Gofroth allowed three hits and four runs in his one relief inning, walking one without a strikeout. In the finale, UK got off to a 7-0 lead heading to the sixth inning, posting a 12-3 win. Meyer went 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking four and striking out 10. Kapteyn had his career game, posting a 3-for-5 game with six RBI and two homers. Keenan Wiley had a three RBI game, while Chris Bisson collected three hits. Matt Little closed out the game with 2.1 shutout innings in relief of Meyer. Ole Miss started Matt Tracy, who went 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and six runs, walking three and striking out three. The Rebels used Goforth for one out in the fifth inning, allowing five hits and six runs, walking one without getting a strikeout. In the two relief outings vs. UK in 2010, Goforth allowed 10 runs, getting four outs. In the series, Bisson led UK with four hits, while Kapteyn had his three-hit, two-homer game.
In the last meeting between the teams in Oxford in 2009, Ole Miss swept the series. UK fell in the Friday game, 4-3 in a hotly contested battle, with Meyer going 6.1 innings, allowing only five hits and one walk, with two runs scoring with 10 strikeouts. Ole Miss exploded for 16 hits and 10 runs in the Saturday win and All-America righty Scott Bittle tossed a complete-game shutout in the series finale, outdueling James Paxton.